Namibia land surveys spark fears among farmers

The Namibian government sparked fears among white farmers on Friday that their land could be expropriated after sending teams of inspectors to carry out surveys of their property.

Lands Minister Jerry Ekandjo informed 45 landowners in letters that the assessments were necessary “to create a land-use model”.

“Data to be collected is important for the government’s resettlement programme and regional integrated land use plans,” Ekandjo wrote in the letter.

However one of the recipients said the large number of farms suddenly being assessed en masse was worrying.

“The team was on our farm this week with a police officer and accompanied by a labour inspector,” Elke Sigwart, owner of a farm some 180km north-east of Windhoek told Agence France-Presse.

“They mapped our water points and asked about our farming activities and wrote down the names of all our farm workers.

“We don’t know if this is just an assessment or if we are targeted for expropriation.”

Ministry spokesperson Crispin Matongela insisted the assessors were merely trying to gather information to maximise farming yields.

“We usually assess farms we intend to buy for resettlement but our ministry is currently drawing up maps to establish which areas are suitable for livestock farming or crop production, including existing farms,” he told AFP.

“Our teams are visiting 45 farms for this purpose.”

Ten of the farms being assessed belong to black commercial farmers but the rest are owned by the country’s small white minority.

The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) said the exercise was merely an assessment for land use.

“According to our information the lands ministry merely collects information for rainfall figures, carrying capacity for livestock and the availability of water on those farms,” said union president Raimar von Hase.

The first white-owned farm was expropriated in August last year when its owner received about N$3,7-million ($583 000) for the 4 000-hectare plot.

Two more farms were expropriated four months later. The owner disputed the original prices offered by the government but an out-of-court settlement was eventually reached.

The issue of land expropriation has been a hot topic in Southern Africa since Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe launched a land reform programme which has seen about 3 000 white farmers lose their land.

Unlike Namibia, Mugabe’s regime has refused to compensate farmers for their land although it has shelled out to cover the cost of developments such as farmhouses, dams and roads. - AFP

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